After record-low viewing numbers for the Emmys and, more recently, the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards unveil their nominations on Monday, staring down the barrel of a similar scenario. Ironically, the Oscars’ best hope not yielding another rating disaster might lie in a player only recently and somewhat grudgingly invited to the party: Netflix.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took a few extraordinary steps last year in acknowledgement of the pandemic, moving its ceremony back two months — from late February to April 25 — expanding the eligibility window and temporarily removing requirements that a movie play in theatres to be considered.
Yet those steps, announced last April, have found the playing field still tilted heavily against movies in theatres, leaving behind a year with no real blockbusters or major box-office attractions to help entice people to watch, blunting rooting interest among potential viewers.
Some industry watchers have pointed to a dynamic in which the traditional equation is slightly turned on its head — where people won’t have seen the nominees (and probably won’t watch the ceremony). Still, the movies that win significant awards will benefit from heightened curiosity about whether they deserved it.
That’s where, theoretically, Netflix comes in. Earlier this week, the most widely distributed streaming service received three nominations (as did Amazon) for the Producers Guild of America’s slate of best-picture nominees for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Mank”, and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” The first of those, notably, stars Chadwick Boseman, whose posthumous victory provided an emotional highlight of the otherwise shoddily produced Golden Globes.
Netflix, of course, won’t be alone in streaming nominees into homes, although with more than 200 million subscribers worldwide, it swings the giant stick.
Amazon has garnered nominations during the build-up to the Oscars for movies like “One Night in Miami” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” With its acquisition of “Nomadland,” Hulu could hold rights to a potential frontrunner, and its corporate sibling Disney+ premiered the animated “Soul,” the likely favourite in that category.